The Penny Pantry System: Strategy #5
Monthly Shopping Trip for Pantry Staples
Once a month, I do my “big” Monthly Shopping to restock items I am running low on and will need for the upcoming month. These are items that I have previously determined are the best price in my area according to my Price Book. The list tends to consist mostly of items that can be stored for awhile. These are also staples that do not tend to go on a weekly sale for a better price. The list will include many dry goods such as dried beans and rice, flours, etc. It also includes items like tofu that I always buy at the same place. Observing sale patterns for 20 years has given me a good idea about which items will not come up later for a lower price during weekly sales.
If you start keeping track of prices, I guarantee you will gain better control of your monthly food costs. It will become 2nd nature for you to “know” if an item is at a good price, and the best price and place for everything you buy.
My prices are based on my stores located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The same system and strategies can apply based on your geographical area if you are not in the SF Bay Area. Even if you have some of the same stores, be aware that prices can still vary regionally. I am planning an in depth post on creating a Price Book, so keep checking back! If you want to get started now, you can start by making a list of everything you buy, and the prices at your local stores. A lot of this information can be found online as many stores have their products and prices on a website. You can also record prices from any receipts you may have.
Everyone eats vegan at my house, with a few differences. I try to eat Whole Food Plant Based (without oil or sugar) most of the time. My daughter is vegan, and includes oil and sugar in her diet. She eats a lot of WFPB too, but is not as restrictive as I am with oil and sugar. She is actually the one who decided to be vegan at 11 years old, and I followed her! My husband is vegetarian outside the home, but eats vegan at home. (The one exception is powdered coffee creamer that contains casein). I have been vegetarian over 25 years, and vegan for about 9 of those years. The Penny Pantry System will work with any diet. The deals I post reflect what my family eats, from WFPB to a broader range of vegan. For my recipes, I will include oil and sugar free options.
I usually do my Monthly Shopping within the 1st week of a new month. Since I shop at several stores, I may take more than 1 day to accomplish my list. The actual time I spend in the stores is minimal, and it’s easy to shop with my narrowed down list. I have already determined ahead of time where everything on my list can be purchased for the lowest price. Here is what is on my list for December, and the corresponding prices and stores where I will shop:
Smart Food Service:
Black Beans, 25 lb. bag Fiesta Brand $15.57=$.62/lb.
Pinto Beans, 25 lb. bag Fiesta Brand $12.19=$.48/lb.
Cornmeal, 25 lb. bag Bob’s Red Mill Brand $13.39=$.53/lb.
Carrots, fresh 10 lb. bag $3.89=$.38/lb.
Salad Mix (varies, will be about $3 for 1 lb.) $3
Bananas ($.29-$.35/lb) 10 lbs. (I freeze for smoothies and banana nice cream)=$3.50
Mushrooms (may or may not buy depending on how fresh they look.) $16.87/10 lbs=$1.68/lb. (I will steam and freeze some.)
English Muffins, 1 pack white, and 1 pack wheat. Franz Brand (many English Muffins are not vegan but these are) $2.09/pack of 10*2=$4.18
Whole Tomatoes large 6.6 lb. can store brand, 2 cans*$2.78=$5.56=$.43/lb.
Tomato Paste large 6.6 lb. can store brand $5.18=$.78/lb.
Frozen Mixed Vegetables, 5 lb. bag $4.45
Total: $87.78 (w/o mushrooms=$70.91)
Vanilla Soy Milk, 1 case of 12*32 oz. shelf stable Kirkland Brand. I love these as they do not have to be refrigerated. (My daughter likes this milk, and I prefer plain unsweetened almond milk which I will buy on a weekly sale later). $13.99/12=$1.16 ea. This is equivalent to $2.32 per half gallon.
Flour Tortillas 40 pack $3.95=$.10 ea. (my Costco carries 2 brands and one has non vegan L-Cysteine so beware :))
10 packs Tofu, various $1.19=$10.19
Chocolate Chips, 2 (12 oz.) bags $1.99*2=$3.98
Cocoa Powder 9 oz. $2.49
Sunflower Seeds, 2 (16 oz.) bags $1.99*2=$3.98
Bob’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour 2*5 lb. bags It should go on a BOGO sale in Dec., and I can use 2 ($1) coupons=2*$1.34 ea.=$2.68/10 lbs.=$.26/lb. (reg. price is $4.69/5 lb.=$.93/lb!)
Bac’n Bits 11 oz. $4 (comes pre bagged in bulk area=$6.53/lb.)
And, that is it for my December Monthly Shopping! I will still do some Weekly Shopping later for items that are only at the best price during sales. This will include: unsweetened almond milk, fresh veggies and fruits, coffee, crackers, raisins. I’ll pick up any spices I need from the Dollar Store or similar.
The above only reflects the items I am running low on. I have lots of frozen fruit and veggies right now in my large freezer (from my garden and store deals), and my pantry is stocked with items I buy on a regular basis but do not need to replenish. I also have a few things still going strong to pick from my garden: oranges, kale, baby lettuces, basil, and rosemary.
Also, many of the items I’m buying this month will last me many months (like the dried beans and cornmeal). Next month, my strategy will be the same but my list will vary. A benefit of this way of shopping is my pantry and freezer are always well stocked with ingredients that I can put together for healthy meals for my family.